Stop-And-Frisk Judge Can’t Join in Appeal, Court Says

U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin can’t challenge her removal from a suit targeting the New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk tactics, an appeals court ruled.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals in New York today said it knows of “no procedural mechanism” that would allow Scheindlin to argue against the reassignment of a case to a different judge.

The court also said it was clarifying its earlier ruling, in which it said that Scheindlin “ran afoul of the Code of Conduct for United States Judges” in remarks made to the press and in suggesting that lawyers challenging the police tactics use a court rule to steer their case to her court.

“We make no findings of misconduct, actual bias, or actual partiality on the part of Judge Scheindlin,” the court said today.

Scheindlin, who presided over a nine-week trial in the case, ruled that that the police department’s use of stop-and-frisk was unconstitutional and illegally targeted black and Latino men. New York City appealed and won a stay from the appeals court delaying implementation of Scheindlin’s ruling while the court considers the case.

‘Sloppily’ Written

Burt Neuborne, a professor at New York University School of Law who asked to represent Scheindlin in challenging the reassignment of the case, said he was “quite pleased” the panel made clear it didn’t find that Scheindlin had violated any judicial ethics rules. He criticized the court’s original decision as “quite sloppily” written.

“Frankly, if they’d said that the first time around, there wouldn’t be a fight,” Neuborne said.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg criticized Scheindlin’s ruling against the police department and backed the city’s appeal. Bloomberg is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent of Bloomberg News.

“The Second Circuit clearly explained how the judge’s comments compromised the appearance of impartiality and required reassignment to a different district judge,” Michael Cardozo, the city’s corporation counsel, said in an e-mail, referring to the appeals court. “The court’s ruling removing Judge Scheindlin from the case was correct.”

Bill de Blasio, the Democrat elected Nov. 5 to replace Bloomberg as mayor, opposed stop-and-frisk in his campaign and said he will withdraw the city’s appeal.

The appeal cases are Ligon v. City of New York, 13-3442, and Floyd v. City of New York, 13-3461, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (Manhattan). The lower-court cases are Floyd v. City of New York, 08-cv-01034; Ligon v. City of New York 12-cv-02274, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

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